Album Review: Okvsho – ‘A Place Between Us’: sophistication, groove and sonic depth – a new force in jazz fusion emerges.

The Breakdown

Baile funk, broken beats, dem-bow, nu-samba, reggaeton, hip-hop and UK jazz, all mingle effortlessly in Okvsho’s music. Nothing feels forced or sounds over wrought.
Current Moves 8.8

Operating out of Zurich the brothers Kiss, Georg and Christoph (a.k.a Okvsho) are on some kind of a mission to shake up the music scene in their city. Unlike say Geneva that throbs to pulse of a vibrant underground art network, Zurich may lack some impetus but the producer/ instrumentalist brothers are looking to pick up the pace, at least from the jazz angle.

So welcome to the next gear shift in their momentum, Okvsho’s new album ‘A Place Between Us’ out now on Kiss brothers’ recently established label Current Moves. Georg and Christoph recognise that this more definitive push into nu-jazz has come from a less conventional route than studying and working with the tradition. Primarily as producers their foundations as a partnership was releasing live beats via Instagram (see 2019’s Bossa Live Beats for evidence) then gravitating towards other Zurich beatmakers who formed the Boyoom connective. The endless search for beat nirvana inevitably lead to immersion in the home of pulsation, jazz, and so started the Okvsho journey into the sound.

Their two releases on Boyoom documented the trajectory. While ‘Traphouse Jazz’ (2019) nudged from classic hip hop to neo-soul, a year later ‘Kamala’s Danz’ saw added live instrumentation, cosmic vibes and reached out to their musicality. Suddenly playing in Brazilian percussion groups as youngsters and the Balkan sensibilities from their Hungarian heritage gained an outlet in their compositions. Groove remained but texture came through. It was that record along with 2021’s Orange Wine that began to locate Okvsho nestling besides the Brownswood catalogue as their downtempo club jazz evolved.

So now we come to ‘A Place Between Us’ and an album that rightly sees Okvsho being cited as significant nu-jazz prospects. It’s a recording that maintains the instrumental sweep (sax, flute, percussion and keys) and uses the contributions of guest vocalists to add those lyrical dynamics when the time is right. The Kiss brothers also cite Yussef Kamaal/Black Focus as a major influence on the sonics here and you can feel that in the stylistic blends that flow through ‘A Place Between Us’. Baile funk, broken beats, dem-bow, nu-samba, reggaeton, hip-hop and UK jazz, all mingle effortlessly in Okvsho’s music. Nothing feels forced or sounds over wrought.

Take the album’s unhurried opening, the gorgeous solo sax lament of Sara serenades the Stars where the song’s namesake Sara El Hachimi conjures up an earthy emotional melodicism in her notes. This underplayed fanfare eases into the late-night soul jazz of Between Us which smooches to the lounge side of smooth with it’s dappling of keys and soft conga patter. The message that comes out early from the album is that Okvsho are not afraid to lead with a sophisticated, some would say softer edge.

That doesn’t mean a lack of depth or variation. “Okusho” walks a spidery bass line, Terry Allen shuffle billowing flute and tambourine twitches along to some sultry neon haunt. It’s a similar snare trilling afrobeat on the mellow toned Soulé that oozes to an uplifting Cape Town sway thanks to fluidity of South African collaborators on the track, Dylane Fine on electric guitar, Zwide Ndwandwe on bass and trumpeter Bonga Mosola. It’s a shame that time wasn’t made for this succulent tune to stretch out further.

Maybe that’s Okvsho’s beats culture coming through, the inclination to create great ideas then move onto the next. ‘A Place Between Us’ is peppered with what the duo highlight as interludes on the album: the pure sax opening; the shimmying bateria workout of Algoriddim II; and the electric bop jazz swing that powers the brief Krawall. Perhaps each clip marks Okvsho testing out things to come, signposting the way ahead.

Still on ‘A Place Between Us’ there is more than enough to suggest that Okvsho have the invention to keep developing their own musical personality. C’est pas la chute sighs with melancholy, an ebb and flow of brass bolstered with swooning accordion chords, but also tense with a ticking electronic pulse. It’s an unusual blend that intrigues. The atmospheric Con Mis Perros En La Niebla is similarly draped in mystery. The low-end rumbles ominously while the rhythm skitters and a sax breaks from the shadows. It’s a cut with a Barry Adamson-like cinematic intention.

Stronger still are the tracks where Okvsho add a vocal dimension to the music. On Pasitos Jaguari Swiss- Argentinian rapper AKIRA eases between earnest prayer and auto-tuned hooks with an agile balance of tenderness and urgency. It’s a song that builds with an unearthly menace, latin-trap cloaked in swirls of cosmic jazz and flashes of alt rock drama. Closing the album, Where I’m Made Of brings with it a similar poetic intensity. Featuring Hiaitian born Berlin based spoken word artist TRVΛNIΛ, there’s an astute relationship between the lyrical edge and musical current that Okvsho stir up here. As TRVΛNIΛ’s song poem reaches its summation (“ask me not where I am from but where I am made of”), the bateria powered samba finds a mighty peak whipped up once more by some seriously righteous sax.

Georg and Christoph have said that they see ‘A Place Between Us’ as being “the first step into a new era” for their Okvsho project. It’s an album that seems to gain in confidence and adventure as it unfolds, setting them up to take the next leap without compromise. To be continued…

Get your copy of ‘A Place Between Us‘ by Okvsho from your local record store or direct from Current Moves HERE

Okvsho will be touring Europe through April – dates below:

04.04: Yuca, Köln

05.04: Gretchen, Berlin

06.04: Jazzclub Tonne, Dresden

07.04: Manyi, Budapest

08.04: Chelsea, Wien

25.04: Le Mazette, Paris

26.04: Brick Lane Jazz Festival, London

27.04: Brick Lane Jazz Festival, London (Dj-Set)

28.04: Band on the Wall, Manchester

30.04: Zentralwäscherei, Zürich

Previous Track: Nottingham Indie-Pop Risers Express Office Portico Unveil New Single 'He Said She Said'
Next News: Maggie Rogers Will Release Don’t Forget Me, Her Third Studio Album, On April 12th Via Capitol Records

No Comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.